By George Manz
When Queen Victoria died on Jan. 22, 1901, it began a series of events with great consequences for the future of the British monarchy and its overseas territories.
With Victoria’s death, her eldest son became King Edward VII.
Edward’s eldest surviving son – then known as the Duke of Cornwall and York – was next in line to the throne, and the young George V was sent on a trip to many parts of the British Empire.
The Duke and his wife – known as the Duchess of Cornwall and York – left England on March 16, 1901, aboard H.M.S. Ophir. For the next nine months, they visited Gibraltar, Malta, Ceylon, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Mauritius, South Africa, St. Vincent, and finally, Canada and Newfoundland.
“As in other parts of the British Empire a gathering of the native tribes was held to offer allegiance to the Royal travelers who were representing the King Emperor,” reads Melvill Allan Jamieson’s 2006 book Medals Awarded to North American Indian Chiefs 1714-1922.
ROYAL PARTY IN CALGARY
On Sept. 28, 1901, the royal party rode in a special carriage about three kilometres west from Calgary to Shagannapi Point, a wide plateau among the foothills overlooking Calgary. In ancient times, it served as a meeting ground between Blackfoot and Cree. Encamped there were about 2,000 representatives of the various First Nations tribes of western Canada, including Blackfoot, Blood, Peigan, Sarcee, Stony and Cree. They were wearing their finest buckskins, feathers, leggings and moccasins.
It was a grandiose affair. A detachment of North West Mounted Police – a precursor to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police – accompanied the royals and the Governor General of Canada, Lord Minto.
The 12 head chiefs of the First Nations tribes were presented to the Duke, who greeted and shook the hands of each chief.
A young Sarcee boy then read a statement welcoming the Duke “to the land of our forefathers.”
Each of the head chiefs of the six First Nations then gave a speech in their own languages.
This was followed by a speech from the Duke to the assembled First Nations peoples.
“From the warmth of your reception I feel that you will also long remember this day,” ended the Duke’s speech. “In order to specially commemorate it the Great King has ordered that a suitable silver medal shall be struck, and one will be presented to each of the Head Chiefs, which shall always be kept by him so long as he remains in office, and afterwards by his successors.”
Each of the 12 head chiefs received a 65-millimetre silver medal.
The obverse of the medal depicts the busts of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York encircled by a scroll of maple leaves.
The reverse shows the Royal Arms in the centre, underneath “CALGARY SEP. 28th 1901” and surrounded by “PRESENTED TO HEAD CHIEFS IN COMMEMORATION OF ASSEMBLY OF INDIAN TRIBES.” The medal is suspended by a ring with a red, white and blue ribbon, at the top of which is a brooch showing a male First Nations in a canoe and holding a paddle in both hands.
In addition, 24 similar bronze medals were presented to sub chiefs.
Both the silver and bronze medals were produced by the P. Ellis Company, of Toronto.
After his return to Britain, George was proclaimed Prince of Wales in November 1901. He became King George V in 1910, leading Britain until 1936.
His granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, is currently on the throne. She became the longest-reigning British monarch on Sept. 9, 2015, when she surpassed the reign of her great-great-grandmother Victoria.
REGINA COIN CLUB SPRING SHOW & SALE
The medals will be on display at the Regina Coin Club Spring Show and Sale this April 13-14 at the Turvey Centre on 100 Armour Rd., Highway 6 N., just north of the Saskatchewan capital.
Representatives from the Sakimay First Nations will cut the ribbon to open the show. Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan Thomas Molloy will also attend the show as Queen Elizabeth’s representative.
George Manz is Fellow of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association and the president of the Regina Coin Club.